Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide for the Big Thompson River Colorado
The special regulation water between the Estes Park and the Drake is what you would
call small stream pocket water. The fish are mostly rainbow trout and brown trout that
probably average from ten to fourteen inches. Most of them run around 12 inches. Most
of the trout are rainbows. The section below Lake Estes at Estes Park is a tailwater. The
stream flows from the dam to Loveland. The tailwater operates very stable for a dam
controlled lake. It can get some heavier discharges during the late Spring and during
runoff (March - April) but for all practical purpose, it is well controlled and the discharge
The trout in the Big Thompson regulated areas are all wild trout. There has been no
stocking of trout by the state since 1994. The trout are not pushovers that will take any
dry fly you present to them. You need to use light leaders and tippets and make good
presentation with flies that imitate the insects in the stream.
As you will see in the Hatches and Flies section, there are a surprisingly large number of
aquatic insects in the Big Thompson. Most of the time, you will have to pay attention to
the insects that are hatching or most available at the time. Attractor flies work okay
sometimes but you are far better off using specific imitations of the insects.
You need to keep in mind the tailwater section flows along highway 34 which is a very
busy highway. During the tourist season traffic headed to Rocky Mountain National Park
can be heavy and many of the parking spots can be taken. If you want to be alone or at
least not crowded, the best times to fish the river is early in the season from March to
April and then again in September to October.
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